How Do Line Changes Work in Hockey

How Do Line Changes Work in Hockey?

Do you know hockey is one of the unique games on the earth’s surface? It is beautifully exciting, and the more closely you watch it, the more you will see it unfolding its beauty to you.

Many factors make this game thrilling and fun. One of these is its line changes. You might find it confusing at first, but you will start enjoying it once you know its mechanism. Let’s understand how do the line changes work in hockey.

The hockey rules allow the players to change with another player when the play stops and during the play. The change during the play is called changing on the fly. Coaches oversee this change of players and decide how and when which player should be on the ice. Every shift of the players has to last for around 45 minutes.

How is a Team Organized for Line Changes?

Every hockey team plays with twelve forwards, six defensemen and two goalies. One of the goalies is just there as a backup while the other plays on the ice. Every line has three forwards and two defensemen. There are four lines for twelve defensemen: a Left Wing, a Center, and a Right Wing.

Team Organized for Line Changes
Team Organized for Line Changes

Three pairs of defensemen are the left defensemen and the right defensemen. This organization is disturbed only when there is a penalty, and the penalized team loses one player. While sitting on the bench, the players sit according to their groupings organized. The forwards sit closer to the opposing team’s goalie while the defensemen are near their goalie. The coach decides and informs the player which line will go to play and which line will be in the waiting.

Line Changes while the Play is Happening

Players can change the lines during the play, known as changing on the fly. It helps maintain the game’s flow and keeps the fresh enthusiasts on the ice.

If changing on the fly was not allowed, the change would require the game to stop so that the teams could change their players. This would have disturbed the flow of the game and created disinterest in the audience.

Another important reason supporting this change is that hockey is a fast game, requiring much strength and stamina. The game pressure is also enough to tire the players. Nobody can perform miracles with an exhausted body yearning to get some rest. Therefore, it is necessary to change the players to bring fresh players to the game.

How they actually Change on the Fly?

So, we understood that there is a need to change on the fly, but how do the players change in the play? There are specific rules for that too. The new player has to come to the ice when the leaving player comes at least five feet closer to the box, not before. One has to come, and the other has to go.

It is essential to follow the substitution rule correctly because there will be a penalty if it is not. There will be more players if both the players come on the ice simultaneously, which is an infraction.

Similarly, when both the players are still on the ice during the substitution, none of them can touch the puck. If any of them touches the puck, this will cause a penalty to the team.

The players must remain vigilant during the game. The coach describes the line changes, and the players have to keep checking when the line before them returns because they have to replace it immediately. Sometimes, the coaches may make changes in the lines and the pairs of the players during the game to get better results.

Line Changes During a Stoppage of Play

The above description was about line changes on the fly. Lines also change when the play stops, which is more accessible and straightforward. When the whistle blows and the play stops, the teams can change their players. Sometimes, they change the lines and the pairs of the players, and at other times, individual players are also replaced. During this substitution, the away team will change their lines first and then the home team.

The linesman on the centre ice holding his arm up indicates line change. When he lowers his arm, the team has completed the change. After this, the home team changes its lines and brings in the substitutes.

Why does a Home Team Get the Last Line Change for Substitutions?

A question might arise on this order of substitution. Why do the home teams get the last change? The away team also called the road team changes first. After which, the home team coach checks which players they have put on the ice and then he decides which players of his team should go against those players.

That is an advantage. This is strength against strengthThe home team can match the players the away team is playing or send offensive players to the ice against the opponent’s defensive ones.   It’s all about the matchups, and the home team takes advantage of being the last ones.

Zone Starts: Where a Coach Decides to Start a Line

Coaches can also start certain lines depending on where the faceoff zone is. Weaker lines will result in a more significant number of starts in the offensive or the neutral zone. This is done to avoid being scored against by the other team.

When are Teams Not Allowed to Change Lines After a Whistle? 

The teams can change the lines when the play stops and during the play too, but there is a time when they cannot change lines.

The teams cannot change the line when they have iced the puck. Icing the puck is a severe infraction which results in a faceoff. To stop the icing of the puck, the NHL has imposed another penalty on it, which is that the team that ices the puck cannot change its lines.

Therefore, this penalized team will have to keep playing the game with the line already playing without any substitutes while the other team can change their lines. This is a massive advantage to the other team as they bring in fresh players against the tired ones. With the hope that you could gain insight into the line changes, this is all about line changes.

On a side note, what does this line change teach you about life? If one strategy isn’t working, you don’t have to stick to it. Go for another one. And it’s okay to rest. Rest and come back with tremendous enthusiasm and more zeal!

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